Authors: Ted Dekker
“I’ll fry Jonathan Bourque on a spit and bury his bones in the ocean,” I said.
Lamont blinked at my boldness. “I don’t think you can fry on a spit. That would be roasting.”
I lifted my glass. “To roasting,” I said.
He laughed, and we toasted.
“Would you like to join me in our bed tonight?”
bed. Not my bed or his bed.
bed. Regardless of how I felt, there was only one polite response, particularly after such a wonderful treat.
He nodded. “Wonderful. You should cleanse first.”
Lamont sighed and stared out at the stars. “Such a beautiful night.”
Today Danny would
kill Cain Kellerman, his twelfth offender, nine of whom had been snuffed out.
The mounting death toll was starting to give Danny nightmares. This was his cross to bear. Like a father committed to disciplining
his child, he did not relish the punishment itself, only the good that would come of it.
Danny sat in his Chevy Malibu at the curb just outside his cul-de-sac home in Lakewood’s Brentwood Estates. His modest single-story
brick house was one of a hundred built in the tract around five models, and it was a perfect fit for him in many ways.
For starters, the neighborhood was serene and beautiful compared with the war-ravaged Bosnia he’d left when he was eighteen,
three years after his mother and sisters were brutally murdered by the likes of Cain Kellerman. Every day he thanked God for
the blessing of such a beautiful country as this. Truly, most Americans did not know how fortunate they were to live in such
luxury, free of Kellerman, who would be dead by the end of the day.
Danny studied the three-by-five photograph of the dark-haired, blue-eyed man wearing black-plastic-framed glasses and felt
not a hint of pity.
Kellerman’s sin was offing young prostitutes after using them up. He trolled the streets for his victims, took them to a hotel,
had his way with them, killed them, and then disposed of their bodies in landfills.
Danny first learned about Kellerman when he’d confronted his eleventh subject, Keith Hammond, about his nasty habit of pummeling
his wife. Danny convinced Hammond that he would get a first-class ticket to hell if he ever again so much as frowned at a
woman. So far the man had not relapsed.
During the confrontation, Danny learned disturbing details about the attorney who’d defended Keith on a charge of spousal
abuse. This lawyer, one Cain Kellerman, had threatened Keith’s wife with the lives of her children if they did not recant
their stories of their father’s abuse. Naturally, they changed their stories, and Keith was acquitted.
Danny had begun his investigation into Kellerman the very next day, and what he learned convinced him that the only hope for
such a vile creature was surely a bullet to the head.
He slipped the photograph into his bag and dropped the Chevy into gear, lost in the consideration of the facts. A loud
from behind startled him.
He twisted his neck and saw that he’d backed into another car. Ellen Bennett’s gray Lincoln crowded his own.
He shoved his gearshift back into park and jumped out as the older woman pushed her door open. “Are you okay?” he asked. No
damage to their bumpers that he could see. “I’m so sorry, how careless of me!”
“It’s you, Danny!” Ellen stepped out of her car. “Dear me, I didn’t see you!”
“No, it was me who didn’t see you.” He took her hand and guided her a few steps from the car. “The important question is,
are you all right?”
“Of course. It was hardly a tap.” The midday sun turned her white curls into a halo. She’d become a mother figure to him,
which suited him well because he had no other family in the United States. It was good to have a neighbor to care for, even
if that care amounted only to mowing the yard once a week and making the occasional repair around the house. Ellen’s husband
had died four years ago, at about the same time Danny moved into the neighborhood.
She chuckled. “My, my, what a fright that was. You sure there’s no damage?” She eyed the kissing bumpers.
“Maybe a scratch, but that’s it.”
She looked him up and down. “You’re smashing today. Hal used to wear khaki slacks, too.” She reached for his hair and touched
it gingerly. “Have I told you his hair was as dark as yours before it went gray?”
“Yes, more than once.”
“You’re not working today?”
I have work to do that you’ll never know about.
“I have an appointment,” Danny said. “Just an errand to help out a friend.”
His name is Cain Kellerman and he is a viper
“Good for you. I have to make this up to you. Let me make you lunch.”
“No, there’s no need—”
“I insist! I practically demolished your car!”
Danny hesitated only a moment. “Well, if you insist.” He offered her a wide smile and dipped his head. “I would love that.
I could join you tomorrow.”
Ellen looked back at the cars and shook her head. “My, my, my. I think I’m getting old.” Her eyes darted up to him. “Tomorrow?
No, my dear, now! I put out a fresh jar of sun tea this morning, and I can make up some sandwiches in a jiffy. Have you eaten?
It’s past noon.”
“No, but I really should—”
“Please, it would make me feel so much better.”
A bite with Ellen, or directly to the scene to kill Cain Kellerman.
Once Ellen got something in her head, it was easier to go with her than to change her.
Danny’s plans could accommodate a quick lunch if it brought the woman peace of mind.
He liked Ellen very much.
“You talked me into it. Let me just pull my car into my drive.”
Ten minutes later, he was seated at her kitchen table, marking the condensation on an ice-cold glass of tea with a lazy finger
as she told him yet another story about her late husband, Hal, who had gone completely senile two years before his death.
“You should have seen it, Danny.” She set down a plate bearing two club sandwiches made of American cheese, ham, and turkey.
“He was out there in the backyard at midnight dressed in nothing but his pajama top and socks.”
“No underwear?” Danny bit into his sandwich and took a sip of tea to wash it down.
“No! Butt as white as a split volleyball. A flat one at that.”
“And you just left him out there?”
“Well, for a little bit, sure. It was too precious a moment to ruin—Hal out there wandering around muttering and me in here
watching him. I couldn’t stop laughing. Hal had a sagging white butt, I’m telling you.”
The image, however humorous, momentarily suppressed his appetite.
“I assume you eventually rescued him?”
“Of course. I called to him from the deck, and he turned to me and asked if I noticed that the sprinklers weren’t working.
He’d been going on for a few days about the grass getting brown, but our sprinklers came on at night, and he’d gotten it into
his mind that they needed to be checked.”
“Every good man wants to give his lovely wife a green lawn.”
“Well, he obviously thought so.”
“Why was he naked?”
“I’m getting to that. When I asked him why he was in his socks, he said it was so he could tell if the grass was wet. When
he saw me staring at his waist he looked down, stared at himself for a bit, then looked up at me with an impish grin that
only Hal could do. ‘Wow,’ he said. ‘I’m naked. You horny?’”
Ellen slapped her knee and laughed until Danny thought she might split her side. He joined her.
Moments like these—moments when pure goodness put to shame the selfish ambition of abusers—compelled him to do what he did.
Danny lived and killed so the Ellens of the world could grow old with their husbands and laugh when those old men wandered
into the backyard wearing only socks and pajama tops.
He and Ellen ate their club sandwiches while she dug up a few more stories that made Danny laugh, one in particular about
the time a porcupine got stuck in their chimney. Hal was the self-sufficient type who would work a challenge to its bitter
end before calling for help. On that particular day, his temperament earned him a blackened face full of quills.
Whenever Danny spent time with Ellen, his convictions grew stronger and his compulsion to cleanse the world grew more urgent.
Truth be told, if this sweet woman was ever victimized, Danny would likely forget his vow never to draw out his subject’s
pain in anger or for revenge.
He kissed Ellen on the cheek and left her house half an hour later, eager to resume his task. Slowly he piloted the car south
toward Long Beach, then west toward the hills of San Pedro, reassured of his calling.
It took him
an hour to arrive and position his car behind an oil storage container on the bluff above Kellerman’s house. Another ten
minutes to work his way down the hill.
Danny had spent a full week figuring out how to disable the security system. He’d subsequently been in the house on three
separate occasions to observe the layout and search for incriminating evidence. As a result, he knew precisely how he would
gain entrance on this day: through the closet window. He had cut the glass along the frame two nights earlier.
A firm bump with a gloved hand now popped out the glass. He crawled in, then replaced it.
If he’d learned one thing as a young assassin, it was that the only skill more important than combat was mission preparedness.
Surveillance. Intelligence. Positioning. These were nine-tenths of any victory. The rest came down to flawless execution and
ruthless violence, both of which he’d mastered despite his youth.
Danny let his eyes adjust to the darkness, then set his bag down and withdrew his syringe. He readied the needle and squatted
in the corner behind the closet door.
Like many successful individuals, Kellerman was a person of habit. Indeed, it was the man’s predictability that had enabled
Danny to follow him to a hotel one night, where he’d slaughtered a prostitute and then returned her to his van in trash bags.
Danny had watched through night-vision glasses as the man buried the body parts in the desert landfill east of the city.
It was an open-and-shut case, the first and last time Danny felt any need to tail the man. How such a successful attorney
who traveled so broadly for a living could be this demented was beyond him.
Danny was so sickened that he’d begun looking for the first opportunity to take the man out. Each week of delay meant another
dead woman. Why weren’t the police on this? Perhaps they were.
Either way, Danny would end it tonight and wash his mind of the man.
The few times Danny had observed Kellerman returning home, presumably from work, the lawyer arrived around six. Traffic must
have held the man up this night, because his entry door didn’t open until six thirty-five.
Danny stood and waited in the dark closet.
The man walked about the kitchen for a while before coming back to his bedroom. He did his business in the toilet and flushed.
Washed his hands. Burped. Twice.
All of this, every footfall indicating that the vile creature still lived, disgusted Danny to no end. The temptation to skip
the usual procedure and kill the man now felt nearly overwhelming. Why waste the drugs on him? Danny had no intention of giving
this one a choice.
So why go through all the motions?
His thoughts were cut short by the opening closet door.
Danny felt no anxiety, only calm. His advantage over the man was insurmountable. Even if Kellerman had a black belt in tae
kwon do—Danny didn’t know, because he hadn’t gone that deep into the man’s history—it would not affect the outcome.
The man turned on the light and walked in. Danny waited for him to cross into his field of vision before reaching out and
injecting him with the drug.
As expected, Kellerman snorted like a bull and crashed back against a line of hangers, half of them empty.
“Hello, Mr. Kellerman,” Danny said. “I’m here to settle the score for the women you’ve killed. Think of me as your Grim Reaper.”
“What?” He drew his hand away from his neck, bloody. His face went red and he swore.
“That wasn’t the dying apology I was looking for,” Danny said. “I’m sorry, but your time is up.”
Danny pulled out his gun, silencer already fixed in place, and pointed it at the man. He wasn’t going to mess around with
this one. Truthfully, Kellerman had made him wait longer than anticipated in this stuffy closet, and Danny was anxious to
be done. He still had to clean the scene and dispose of the body, which would take the better part of the night.
Cain Kellerman dropped to one knee as the drug started to kick in. The full effect could take anywhere from seconds to minutes,
depending on how much Danny had managed to inject.
“Hold on…” The man’s face was now white; he held out a trembling hand, palm out. “Just hold on!”
“I have what I need,” Danny said.
“I can give you more…This is Bourque? He sent you?”
The Bourque Foundation. Kellerman’s employer, who had lured him away from criminal law some years ago. Danny knew little about
the man behind the foundation.
“What about him?”
“Jonathan Bourque. He’s cleaning house, isn’t he? Killing off the people who know what he’s up to? His attorneys? So now he’s
after me, too?” The man’s breathing started to thicken. “I can pay you more than he can.”
“I’m not for hire. I’m here because you’re a killer. A sick snake who abuses women in the worst way.”
“Getting Bourque will get you the sickest snake of them all. They think he’s clean, you know. He used to be a priest…but the
bodies of his victims could fill a graveyard. I can get him for you.”
“I’m here for you, and honestly, I can’t imagine anyone worse than you, no matter how many bodies he’s buried.”
“Who am I? Just one more on a list of people Bourque’s killed this week. Who are you? Just one more killer on his payroll.”
“You’re misunderstanding,” Danny said. “Your employer, Jonathan Bourque, did not send me.”
“I can pay more.” He reached out and grabbed a hanging belt to steady himself. “Name your price.” He ripped the glasses from
his face. Blue eyes glistened with tears of desperation. “Please, I’m begging you. I don’t deserve to die. I’m a nobody over
there. I just do what they want us to do with the cash. I…I don’ wan’ die.”
“Why did you kill the women, Cain?”
His face wrinkled up. He was pathetic.
“I’m notta bad man I…”
Danny shot him twice in the chest to save them both any prolonged agony. The man knelt as if made of stone, then toppled over